The manufacture of lifestyle: the role of corporations in unhealthy living

J Public Health Policy. 2012 May;33(2):244-56. doi: 10.1057/jphp.2011.60. Epub 2012 Jan 19.


Recently, researchers have debated two views on the connection between lifestyle and health. In the first, health-related lifestyles including tobacco and alcohol use, diet, and physical activity are seen as primary influences on health. In the second, social stratification is the dominant influence with lifestyles simply markers of social status. Neither approach leads to interventions that can reverse the world's most serious health problems. This article proposes that corporate practices are a dominant influence on the lifestyles that shape patterns of health and disease. Modifying business practices that promote unhealthy lifestyles is a promising strategy for improving population health. Corporations shape lifestyles by producing and promoting healthy or unhealthy products, creating psychological desires and fears, providing health information, influencing social and physical environments, and advancing policies that favor their business goals. Public officials and health professionals can promote health by advocating policies to modify these corporate practices.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce*
  • Consumer Advocacy
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Promotion / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Public Policy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Public Sector*
  • Social Class
  • Social Control Policies
  • Social Environment
  • Social Marketing